An Alternate Take On The Perception Of Nas’ Illmatic 20 Years Later
Today Nas’ debut LP Illmatic is regarded as an unadulterated Rap classic and is arguably the greatest Hip-Hop album ever recorded. Nasty Nas was considered the second coming of Rakim and his album was declared a classic months before it ever even surfaced by leading Rap publications like The Source and Rap Pages.
The Queens rapper’s album was highly anticipated and it received a perfect rating from The Source with the review being written by a young Minya Oh AKA Miss Info as Shortie. Even with all of this critical acclaim heaped upon the album it failed to sell due to a combination of heavy bootlegging and the lack of a hit single to catch on at either radio or the clubs.
“If Illmatic dropped today, many of the bloggers who talk about what a masterpiece it was would clown it’s opening week sales and ‘dated’ sound.”
To further put things into perspective, the day Illmatic dropped Shyheim’s debut AKA The Rugged Child was also released and it outsold Illmatic off the strength of his hit single “On & On.” While Nas had all the critical acclaim one could wish for, a dream team of producers and the Bible Of Hip-Hop itself cheerleading for him, the best he could muster was selling 59,000 units in his opening week. I know you’re wondering what this has to do with the album being an unadulterated masterpiece both lyrically and in term of production? I’m getting to that.
At the time Nas’ debut album was released, Rap fans focused on the quality of the album rather than its sales numbers. The only reason I even know how many units Illmatic moved it’s opening week is because Serch revealed the numbers in a recent appearance on Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg’s Juan Epstein podcast. I honestly wasn’t aware that none of Illmatic’s singles were hits (although “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” actually succeeded at cracking the Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at #91) until I checked the Billboard charts numbers at the beginning of this month. These aren’t things that even the most knowledgeable Hip-Hop head cared about in 1994.
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